A few (random)thoughts on the mechanics of peer review and then a few more
on the white paper.

Peer Review.

1. What is its objective? It should look beyond the review of minimum
standards sought by the statutory authorities such as CoA and AICTE.
Establishing minimum standards is actually the job of the respective
universities under whom architectural education is being imparted, and so
the statutory authorities should be examining the proces by which
universities are discharging this responsibility. In the present system the
statutory authorities inspect each School, thus overlooking/marginalising
the role of the Universities, many of whom have several Schools attached to
their programme. So, first, let us advocate the role of Universities in the
process of establishing minimum standards, and that the Universities should
be subjected to the overview function of the statutory authorities. After
all it is the B.Arch awarded by the University that is the recognised
qualification, and not the education (good, bad or indifferent) that is
conducted by individual Schools. Advantage: a) a proper hierarchy of
official inspections is instituted, and, b) individual Schools are not
subject to multiple and overlapping inspections for each of which they have
to pay. The Peer Review should review and take note of the findings of the
statutory authority's inspection of the University, but should not make it
one of the factors that they need to repeat.

2. The objective of the Peer Review would therefore be largely to evaluate
the contents of curriculum and pedagogy. The fact is that the University has
the authority to define the syllabus they want. It would be the staturory
authority's purpose of inspection to see if this meets with their minimum
requirements. In fact, the CoA's guidelines permit an institution to define
25% of its syllabus on its own. At present few seek to look beyond the
minimum syllabus defined by CoA, so this actual lack of heterogeneity among
the various Schools in the country is not really of the CoA's making, but
the result of the lack of initiative on the part of the
Schools/Universities. So, the Peer Review could make this factor an issue,
and encourage Schools/Universities to define the nature of at least the 25%
of the syllabus that they are expected to define. Those who do this and more
should be ranked higher than those who don't, and those who do it better and
more productively, obviously should be ranked still higher. This would be
the primary objective of the Peer Review. It does not become mandatory, but
would be voluntary to enable Schools to benchmark themselves with others if
they want to do so.

3. To evaluate the contents of the course, the pedagogy and the output of
the students should be the primary focus of the Peer Review examination. In
a subjective field, the question of who is to condust such a review
naturally surfaces. Both practitioners and academics should be in this
commitee; also some one from the local region and one from outside the local
region, and could even be from outside the country. This does not appear
foolproof, but in a subjective field we can only aspire to incorporate
sufficient checks and balances in the process of evaluation. This would be
an antidote to the highly centralised protocol of the CoA, where the members
of the so-called Moderation Commitee are merely acting as lower divisional
clerks interpretting rules and regulations, and applying them even more
stringent conditions than their own Inspection Commitee. We need to
celebrate subjectivity in the evaluation process of the Peer review. In case
of gross misunderstangings in this process, the School could always ask for
a review by another Commitee.

4. The professional and academic output of the faculty should also be
evaluated. Each faculty member should present a portfolio of their recent
works - this could be examples of institutional or private practice,
research undertaken, papers published, conferences and QIP attended, etc.

5. The vision of the School should be articulated and also evaluated in the
Peer Review. What are their plans for the next year? for the next five
years? What is their strategy to achieve these goals?

Note. I realise that all this is technically in the CoA inspection package,
but the important point to be reitterated is that these factors never become
significant in their scheme of things. The objective of the Peer Review
would be to establish the importance of this as a benchmark for academic
development. Of greater interest is to define how this Peer review would be
different to the objectives of the National Accreditation Board (NAB) of
AICTE. The NAB approvals opens up access to considerable AICTE funds, and so
becomes a powerful agency. Can the Peer Review we are discussing dialogue
with the NAB to set up an appropraite mechanism to evaluate architectural
schools?

White Paper.

1.The legal wars between CoA and AICTE is hotting up. In this process, as I
pointed out earlier, the objectives of why the two statutory authorities are
fighting over the right to "control" architectural education is being
sidelined : only legal issues and the question of "izzat" are coming to the
fore. The White paper is needed to bring the focus back on to architectural
education.

2. Inter alia, it can examine, legal issues aside, how and who should
"control" architectural education. Is there a benefit to separating the
licensing and overseeing education function of CoA? Where does AICTE fit
into the old or new scene? Personally I find that the "arts" and
"engineering" arguments used to decide this issue is inadequate because it
fails to take cognizance of the new forces mediating the development of both
the practice and teaching of architecture. We will have to get off the "we
are unique" high horse, and come to terms with the interdisciplinary nature
of architecture and its interdependence with other professions when we
structure the control mechanisms. Perhaps, the CoA Act should be amended, or
the objectives of AICTE should be tailored to repond to the new forces
acting on architecture. Both are open fields for the White Paper to explore.

3. Perhaps, one person should draft it and put it up for public comments.
Anand has suggested that Prem should write the first version. Or Akhtar.
Both have a command of the issues and so either/both should go ahead and
begin the public dialogue instead of agonising any further over the issue of
who should write.

4. There was another idea that Anand had mooted - that the IASA should be
formally registered and assume as its mandate the publishing of the White
Paper and the process of Peer Review. According to me that sounds good, so
lets discuss it.

AG Krishna Menon

 

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